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IMF Peppered on Lagarde's Linking Greece to Niger, But Sudan UNanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 31 -- The International Monetary Fund's biweekly embargoed press briefing on Thursday focused almost entirely on the protests to Managing Director Christine Lagarde's comments that Greeks should pay their taxes -- while she does not pay taxes -- and as one Greek journalist focused in on, her comparison of Greece and Niger.

  IMF spokesman Gerry Rice responded to this last by paying the IMF has to serve all of its members including the low income ones; he directed the press to Lagarde's clarification if not apology on Facebook. But is it enough?

  The questions on Greece kept coming, until Rice said, this will be our last question on Greece. But it wasn't.

  Inner City Press submitted a number of questions, including "On Hungary, can you respond to an analysis (by Citigroup) that "the IMF may still require structural expenditure cuts and changes to the tax system"?

  Rice said, on Hungary, that there are "no dates... to start negotiations," adding that "we do continue" to be in touch with "the Hungarian authorities. A lot of actions are needed," he said, "to ensure central bank independence."

  Then the questioning turned back to Greece. Rice said there will be no new mission until elections and a new government. One wonders how big the protests would be, if Lagarde went there now?

  Others of Inner City Press' questions have yet to be answered, on Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire and one on Sudan, on which the UN Security Council was simultaneously meeting on Thursday morning:

On Cote d'Ivoire, can you confirm that next month a decision is expected on "an IMF-backed debt relief deal calling for relief of $5-billion of the country's debt, reducing its current stock of debt by 40%"?

What is the status of Pakistan reaching out for a new facility? Is it true the "IMF wants Pakistan to raise tax revenue from the present 10% of GDP to 15% of GDP by 2013"?

On Sudan, because some are critical of the IMF's Edward Gemayel recent recommendation of a "structural reform program," could you explain what this means for the Sudanese?

Watch this site.

Footnote: the press corps covering the IMF backed each other up in pushing questions on Greece and Lagarde's comments, in contrast for example to some in the UN press corps these days.

  Follow ups were sharp, and journalists didn't allow themselves to be used as a way to turn away from or even refuse others' questions. It seemed unlikely there would be pressure to take down stories, or for purges or expulsion. Does money in the water make the reporting more serious? Even within the same mega wire services?

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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